Children celebrating a book showcasing their creativity and writing efforts, along with parents and Kids Share Workshops and Publishing Inc (KSWP) coordinators and volunteers threw a pizza party on Friday, December 6.
They had come together for a productive two weeks in April, thanks to former Ridgefield resident and KSWP director Kristina Applegate, now of Vermont. She and a team of local volunteers organized Kids Share Newtown, a book-making workshop and children’s free enrichment program offered in the wake of 12/14.
The result is Kids Share Newtown Adventures In Time Travel And Other Amazing Stories, stories “for kids, by kids,” as stated on the cover. Written on the cover page is the dedication to the Sandy Hook School principal who died on 12/14, Dawn Hochsprung, “who taught us to be kind; and for all of Sandy Hook School. We are Newtown. We choose love.” Waiting to receive their copies with writing and art work by 27 students between ages 6 and 12, including Sandy Hook School students, the children, families and KSWP volunteers enjoyed a brief reunion at the Newtown Youth Academy last week where the workshops were held. They had not been together since April, Ms Applegate said. She and Jennifer Ponte Canning of Danbury, and others involved had been friends in Ridgefield High School, and brought the workshop to Newtown.
Ms Canning believes the workshop “empowers kids” by capturing their story and their feelings for their town. “And, they could have something nice together after something that takes [away] innocence,” she said. The workshop gives them “something positive,” she said.
Ms Applegate said the Newtown workshop was a good experience. “It was better than I expected,” she said. “Kids smiled, beamed from the beginning.” She feels the art and writing were “strong therapy for all involved.”
Parent Beth Hegarty had three children participating. She said the “way they came together was amazing.” From the first day she felt welcomed. She has since decided to become a member of the board for Kids Share. “Because I believe in it,” Ms Hegarty said.
Gathered near a snack table in the hallway were parents Andrew and Shari Paley and their sons Ben, Ethan, and Jacob. Ethan said, “Mom and dad are most important, because they got us here.”
According to a recent release from the group, “Volunteers from the nonprofit Kids Share Workshops and Publishing Inc arrived in Newtown to help its youngest residents heal through the creative arts.” The group met for two weeks, creating writing and illustrations.
The release quotes resident and Sandy Hook School parent Kristen Casey Marshall as saying, “This gives the children of Newtown a chance to explain to the world who they are: ‘This is our town and why we love it.’”
The Kids Share team of professional editors, illustrators, and graphic designers volunteered their time and talent to produce the book. BerylMartin Graphics near Chicago donated 350 copies, which were distributed to workshop participants and others throughout the community. The Kids Share team hopes for a major publishing contract for Kids Share Newtown “so this powerful message can reach a wider audience,” the release states. The ultimate goal is an ongoing series of multicultural Kids Share books for the educational market, including the reprinting of two previous self-published volumes: Kids Share: Tibetan and Vermont Children’s Narratives, and Kids Share: Nicaragua and Vermont Children’s Narratives.
Inside the 93-page book are stories and artwork from Newtown and area students. On page 7, readers are welcomed to town as a “place with a flagpole in the middle of Main Street, and two-dollar movies…it is a place of wonder, of joy, of belonging and of promise. Above all, it’s home.”
In its pages children imagine time travel where Mack, from grade 4 in Sandy Hook “tames T-Rex,” Aiden, grade 3 in Sandy Hook “plunders the pyramids,” and Daniel, grade 4 in Sandy Hook, goes on a “mummy mission.”
Other students head for the future where J.P., a grade 4 Sandy Hook student envisions a space colony, and grade 4 Sandy Hook student Colin describes “futuristic football.”
The book includes the writing and student artwork, and also fills its pages with artistic collages by Ms Applegate, using paintings done by workshop students.
In 2007, Ms Applegate woke one morning with the idea to unite her passion for art with her compassion for children and would facilitate the sharing of stories and experiences across the world. She aimed to form creative workshops for children that would travel through the United States and beyond, encouraging young people to realize the talents within in them, states a brief bio at the back of the Kids Share Newtown book. Kids Share is a not-for-profit arts enrichment program, free to communities, offering a curriculum for a two-week after school program.
Learn more at kidssharenewtown.wordpress.com and kidsshareworkshops.com.